A report released today by the Office of the State Comptroller found that New Jersey’s community colleges padded their president’s compensation with perks such as housing allowances, meals and airfare.

The OSC report found that the average total payments to or on behalf of New Jersey’s community college presidents exceeded $250,000 in 2010. The largest amount of compensation, $441,000, was paid to the then-president of Union County College. Furthermore, that individual was actually on sabbatical. While he received full pay and benefits, the school was simultaneously paying another employee to perform the presidential duties.

Essex County College’s president received more than $20,000 in expenses on top of her $245,000 salary. The additional expenses included a $3,5000 housing allowance, unlimited use of the college-funded Lincoln MKZ, $2,000 for round-trip flights between New Jersey and Florida, and $550 so she could send each of the school’s 11 trustees a holiday gift basket.

Bergen Community College’s president used the college credit card to make $28,000 in purchases, including $16,600 for meals, liquor and entertainment.

The OSC report also found that an overwhelming majority of New Jersey’s 19 community colleges chose to exceed the annual contribution to their president’s retirement funds. Five of the colleges paid more than triple the required contribution. When Union’s president retired in December 2010, he received a separate $1 million retirement distribution that had been funded by the college over a period of years.

“The true extent of the compensation is being hidden from public view,” said State Comptroller Matt Boxer. His office called for guidelines and parameters for school trustees to follow when compensating presidents.

“We understand that this is not a situation where one size fits all, but when we’re spending taxpayer dollars, some broad parameters would be appropriate,” Boxer said.

The colleges’ funding stems primarily from student tuition, state aid and taxes paid by county residents.

The OSC report also recommended that each community college post its president’s employment contract and annual expense information on its website.